Catterick Racecourse Hotels

Catterick Racecourse
Tony Simms / geograph.org.uk

Catterick Bridge – to give the course its full title – lies just outside the hamlet of the same name and only around a mile to the north of the small North Yorkshire town of Catterick itself. Not the flashiest of Yorkshire’s racecourses, it is nevertheless the busiest, benefiting from its ability to stage both flat and jumps action and its close proximity to the thriving training centre of Middleham.

Highly rated by stable staff due to the excellent facilities on offer, this relaxed rural course stages at least one meeting in every month of the year and prides itself upon its friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Hotels

For many racing fans, a day trip to Catterick will suffice in order to scratch their live racing itch. Others however, and particularly those travelling from further afield, may wish to extend their trip with an overnight stay either before or after the action on the track. Anyone planning to take in a little more of what the region has to offer will find a variety of available accommodation, both in Catterick itself, and the surrounding areas.

Closest to the Course

Whilst being relatively unspectacular and possibly most famous for the army garrison stationed there, the town of Catterick does offer a certain small-town charm. A charm which has been enhanced in recent years with significant investment in the area seeing the building of a new shopping and entertainment hub, featuring a cinema and a couple of decent pubs in the shape of the Foxglove and the Brewers Fayre.

For those looking to get their head down as close to the track as possible, the Farmers Arms Inn and the Dove Cote lie within a mile of the course, whilst the thematically named Red Rum Cottage is only slightly further afield at 1.1 miles. At under 3 miles away, the Travelodge and Premier Inn are both also within easy reach of the track, whilst also being in close proximity to the aforementioned shopping and entertainment hub.

Rest in Richmond

Only around five miles to the west of Catterick sits one of the UK’s most beautiful market towns. Boasting a large cobbled marketplace, an 11th century castle and a wide range of food and drink establishments, Richmond is well worth considering for those looking to stay in the area – particularly as a free shuttle bus runs from the town to the track on all race days.

Being a popular tourist destination, Richmond boasts a high number of accommodation options relative to its size, with something to suit all tastes and budgets. The Unicorn offers centrally located comfort for a very reasonable price, whilst the popular Kings Head Hotel and Fleece Hotel are two of the higher end choices available. If opting for Richmond as your base of operations, do be sure to book early as, despite the large number of hotels, the area does tend to sell out quickly.

Head Down in Darlo

And for those seeking something a little livelier than the quaint charm of Richmond, Darlington offers a slightly larger market town experience, whilst also boasting the advantage of the most conveniently located train station for racegoers. A mere 19-minute drive from the track, or reachable in around 1hr20min via public transport, “Darlo” boasts a vibrant pub scene in addition to a range of other attractions, including the picturesque South Park, a Railway Museum and the impressive Raby Castle.

With over 200 accommodation options in and around Darlington, there should be something to suit all budget and taste preferences, with Rockcliffe Hall a superb spa and resort at the top end of things. Holiday Inn, Best Western and Jury’s Inn are all represented, whilst the Grey Horse would seem a good option towards the lower end of the pricing scale.

About the Racecourse

Catterick Racecourse
JThomas / geograph.org.uk

Providing flat racing between the months of April and October and National Hunt action between November and March, Catterick is amongst those British racecourses able to operate right throughout the year. The track lays on 28 meetings in all, with a 17 to 11 split in favour of the flat. Generally offering middle to lower class fare, the course can nevertheless be relied upon to produce consistently exciting and competitive action.

Being one of the more rurally located tracks in the country, Catterick Racecourse is most easily reached via car. Located around 5 miles south of Scotch Corner, motorists from both the north and south should take the A1, exiting at junction 52 and following the signage to the track. Those approaching from the east or west should approach via the A66. And of course satnav can make the process that bit easier, with the postcode to use being DL10 7PE.

Once at the track, the main car parks serving the Grandstand & Paddock and Course enclosures are both free of charge. Racegoers are also able to drive their vehicle into the Course Enclosure and park via the rail at a cost of £5 per person within the vehicle. Do note however that spaces are strictly limited and will be issued on a first come, first served basis.

For those opting to travel to the track via public transport, Darlington is the most conveniently located train station. From Darlington, racegoers should then take either the X26 or X27 service to Richmond. Both services do continue on to Catterick Town, but the most sensible option is to alight at Richmond and take the free shuttle bus directly to the track which operates on all race days – leaving Richmond Town Square approximately one hour before the start of the first race, and making the return journey shortly following the conclusion of the last.

The Course

Back in 2015 proposals to convert Catterick’s flat turf track into an all-weather venue and reconfigure the National Hunt course seemed to be gathering pace. Fast forward to the back end of 2021 though and, with no progress having been made, it seems that such plans have been shelved. Whether the scheme is revived in the future remains to be seen, but for now the track continues to operate much as it always has done in boasting two of the most cramped and undulating circuits in the land.

Measuring only around 1m1f in circumference, the left-handed oval of the flat course features sharp bends, and pronounced undulations, with the field faced with largely downhill terrain from the 7f marker to the line. In addition to the main oval section of the track, the flat course features two spurs – one running into the back straight and containing the 7f start, with the second veering slightly left-handed into the 3f home straight and featuring the starting points for events over 5f and 1m5f.

Whilst the flat and National Hunt course share much of the same land, both the back straight and the turn for home of the jumps course lie outside those of its flat counterpart, creating a longer, and not quite so undulating circuit of close to 1m3f. Whilst the fences aren’t particularly demanding, chase contests do tend to be run at a strong pace which can force mistakes, particularly in the back straight where the five obstacles are bunched pretty closely together. Look for runners able to jump accurately and at speed.

Whether over jumps or on the level, Catterick is a track ill-suited to the long striding, galloping type of performer, with front running, nippy sorts favoured over all distances. And as is the case with many of the more idiosyncratic tracks in the land, solid previous form at the course can be a major pointer towards future success.

In terms of the draw, low stalls are favoured on good or quicker ground, with the bias switching towards those drawn high should the going turn soft – which is something of a rarity due to the fast-draining gravel subsoil underlying the course.

Dress Code

With the exception of a ban against anything likely to prove offensive, there is no official dress code in operation at this most relaxed of venues. Smart casual attire is suggested, particularly in the hospitality areas, and many racegoers do opt to dress smartly for the bigger race days but, other than that, the only recommendation is to plan for the weather, as large sections of the course are uncovered.

The Stands

Catterick operates two main enclosures throughout the season and prides itself on providing racegoers with excellent value for money. Note that discounts are available for students and OAPs, whilst under-18s go free with a paying adult in both main enclosures.

Priced at £15 in advance and £18 on the day, the Paddock and Grandstand Enclosure grants access to the parade ring and winners’ enclosure, a covered grandstand and a range of food and drink options, including the Winning Streak Restaurant, Paddock Café and Gods Solution Bar.

Priced at just £5 – whether purchased in advance or on the day – the Course Enclosure lies to the inside of the track and provides a laid-back family focussed experience. Food and drink retailers are available, but racegoers are also permitted to bring their own food and drink into this area, whilst both outdoor and indoor play areas should keep the kids entertained whatever the weather.

In addition to the standard ticketing options a range of hospitality packages, private suites and even a marquee option are also available, with prices beginning at around £65 for a restaurant package, and £74 for a private suite. This typically includes a three or four course meal, race card and table for the day, so is excellent value.

Major Meetings

Race at Catterick
Gordon Ednie / Flickr.com

With so many fixtures on offer, racegoers planning a trip to this appealing North Yorkshire venue certainly have plenty of options, be they fans of racing on the flat or National Hunt. From special family days, to fixtures with added festive attractions over the Christmas Period, there’s never a bad time to sample the track, but as with all courses in the land, Catterick does boast its seasonal highlights.

North Yorkshire Grand National

Taking place in mid-January, the biggest race of the Catterick season comes very early in the calendar year. At 3m6f this event for the staying chasers is not only the longest contest to be held at the course, but also the richest National Hunt event of the season, and a regular target for some of the higher profile trainers in the area and those from further afield. With six cracking contests on the undercard, there’s plenty to warm the cockles of racing fans at this midweek winter fixture, which never fails to draw in the crowds.

Catterick Dash

And at the polar opposite end of the distance scale comes the track’s biggest flat contest, which takes place over the minimum trip of 5f. The highlight of a valuable seven race card, the £25,000+ on offer in the Catterick Dash makes it the track’s richest event under either code. Regularly taking place on the same October Saturday as Champion’s Day at Ascot, the action from Berkshire is shown on the big screens, as Catterick bids a fond farewell to the latest flat campaign. With additional entertainment on offer for the kids, and a vibrant atmosphere in the stands, this is comfortably one of the most popular fixtures of the season.

Ladies Day

And last but by no means least on the list of Catterick’s biggest events comes the track’s signature Ladies Day. Taking place in late August – and part of a series of such events spread around the Yorkshire tracks – there’s always a fair chance that the sun will be shining as the North Yorkshire lovelies don their finest frocks. With a best dressed competition offering thousands of pounds worth of prizes, in addition to a competitive card of flat action, this is always one of the first dates pencilled into the diary of local racing fans.

History

Catterick Racecourse in the snow
Gordon Hatton / geograph.org.uk

Whilst tales of unofficial racing in the area date all the way back to the 17th century, it wasn’t until 1783 that the first sanctioned meeting took place at the course. Quickly capturing the imagination of the locals, the track’s popularity led to a permanent course being laid in 1813.

1819: Ferguson Clears the Snow with His Sheep

One of the more interesting events from the early days came at an 1819 fixture which looked set to be abandoned due to the amount of snow lying on the track. No undersoil heating or such mod cons back in those days of course, but there was a local farmer by the name of Mr Ferguson who, in his determination that the fixture should go ahead, simply marched his flock of sheep around the course until all the snow was gone.

1906: Grandstand Built

A staple diet of the local sporting scene by the turn of the 20th Century, 1906 then saw the building of the first grandstand here at Catterick. Over 100 years on, the original framework and structure of that stand still remain, although there have of course been significant upgrades to the interior and facilities over the years.

1923: Formation of the Catterick Racecourse Company

The next significant event in the history of the course came in 1923 with the formation of the Catterick Racecourse Company, who continue to manage the track to this day – making Catterick one of only a handful of independently operated tracks in the country.

1969: Closure of the Train Station Affects Attendance

The closure of Catterick Bridge Train Station in 1969 then marked a potential stumbling block for racing here, and whilst attendances were hit initially, predictions that it may lead to the demise of the course have, thankfully, proved to be wide of the mark.

2002: Collier Hill Appearance

Moving into the current century, and 2002 marked the appearance of possibly the track’s most talented performer. Making a successful debut in a lowly Class 6 bumper at the course, Collier Hill would go on to leave those humble beginnings well behind to win the Hong Kong Vase, Irish St. Leger and Canadian International.

2004: New Investment

Continuing to go from strength to strength, a £600,000 new stable yard was opened in 2004, with a further £3.5m in investment culminating in the opening of the classy Dales Stand for the owners and trainers in 2021. With its focus upon providing an excellent experience both for the fans, and those directly involved in the sport, Catterick looks well positioned to prosper for some time to come.